Outotec is, this week, celebrating 70 years of sustainable technology development at its Outotec Research Centre (ORC) in Pori, Finland.
The ORC in Pori is unique in the industry, according to the company, with its expertise in the minerals and metals processing value chain ranging from ores to finished metals and recycling.
The centre was established in 1949 and, since then, has been a part of the company’s long-term research and development strategy. The company is holding a two-day seminar to celebrate 70 years of process development on October 15–16, with speakers including leading researchers, professors and industrial influencers.
One of several cutting-edge technologies developed at the ORC is Outotec Flash Smelting, which is still one of the world’s most commonly used processes to produce primary copper and nickel. This innovation was developed at the ORC at the end of 1940s.
The centre’s laboratories conduct tests on raw materials for Outotec’s customers and the related production processes. Current testing capabilities include nine laboratories and pilot plants, with, annually, some 200 research projects conducted, and more than 250,000 samples analysed.
Outotec said: “There is a genuine need for continuous development of processes since ore deposits are becoming leaner in grade and more difficult to utilise. The conventional methods are often insufficient to make them financially viable. Outotec’s research centre in Pori supports customers in selecting and, if necessary, developing new solutions for the efficient and environmentally sustainable extraction of valuable minerals from raw materials.”
The company said it can take decades for a completely new technology to establish itself in the market, but once the technology platform is developed, new applications may quickly be found. This has happened to cobalt and lithium processing technologies in recent years with the electrification of transport, it said.
Jarkko Partinen, Vice President, Technology and R&D at the ORC, said the cobalt extraction technology developed in Pori back in the 1960s is, today, gaining in importance due to the advent of electric transport.
“Thanks to our continuous research and development work, we are able to offer customers new and efficient ways of processing materials such as battery chemicals,” he added.
Kalle Härkki, Head of Outotec’s Metals, Energy & Water business area, said Outotec’s customers each face unique challenges and it is the company’s job to create solutions that help them succeed.
“We are proud of our process and technology expertise, and having our own research centre is a competitive strength,” he said. “ORC has been characterised by research into environmental protection, the circular economy, and resource efficiency before any of these topics became mainstream. One of the earliest studies, which dates back to 1951 and would nowadays be linked to the circular economy, examined useful applications for sulphur gas roasting residues.”
ORC employs 180 research and development professionals, 45 of which are process and technology development engineers, half of whom hold a doctorate level degree. There is a dedicated group working in modelling and digitalising process expertise.
The laboratories employ more than 100 professionals most of them working in three shifts specialised in building and maintaining test rigs and equipment, conducting the test work planned by the process development engineers, and analysing samples taken from the tests.
In 2018, the ORC welcomed more than 1,300 visitors, the vast majority of which were customers, researchers and people attending training.